Coast to Coast Walk 1992

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 2 - Ennerdale to Patterdale

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Day 2 - Monday 8th June - Ennerdale to Longthwaite via High Stile - 10 miles + 4 miles off route to Great Gable.

Accommodation - YHA Longthwaite - 14.05 with full meals and packed lunch

I woke up to a beautiful morning but by the time breakfast was over it had started to cloud over. I started out at 9.20 and set off up the steep climb to the high level alternative route via Red Pike which I reached with a lot of sweat at 10.25. The clouds had thickened quite a lot but were just high enough to allow glimpses through the haze and patches of cloud, of the fabulous views over Crummock water and Buttermere, as I progressed along the ridge of mountains. A few heavy showers came along and the weather over the mountains to the south looked decidedly dubious, but there were a few brighter spells in between, so I decided to climb Great Gable, which is about 2 miles off route. Its summit was in and out of the cloud, so I was not sure what weather to expect when I got there. To save effort, as I would have to retrace my steps, I left my rucksack neatly propped against a large rock and set off, taking only my waterproofs, camera and wallet with me. Over Green Gable the mist descended and I took the wrong route over the very steep edge of Green Gable thinking that I was dropping down to Windy Gap but then saw, as the mist lifted, that I had dropped a few hundred feet below the ridge and had to scramble back up again to resume my ascent of Great Gable. At 3.10 I reached the summit which was covered in mist which almost lifted but not quite enough to provide a view. Twenty years and a couple of weeks ago I proposed to Jean on this spot - It was the first and probably the last time she would ever climb a mountain!

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Red Pike & Bleaberry Tarn from High Stile
Red Pike from High Stile
Buttermere and Robinson from High Crag
Buttermere from High Crag
Jean (exhausted) on Great Gable Summit 20 Years Earlier
Jean on Great Gable 20 Years Earlier

Returning back via Green Gable the cloud lifted a bit more and, by the time I had returned to where I had left my rucksack, it had lifted right off Great Gable so it was a pity that I hadn't enough spare time to have stayed at the summit longer. I found the rock where I had left my pack an hour or so before only to find that it was no longer there. I scouted around the area in case I had mistaken the spot, but that was the only place it could have been. Thinking that it must have been stolen, I looked around to see if any of the contents had been dumped but saw nothing. The only option left was to make my way to the Youth Hostel and start phoning from there. In the meantime my head was spinning trying to work out what I could do to get emergency replacements of things to allow me to continue the walk.

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Seatoller and Borrowdale
Seatoller and Borrowdale

Just as I was approaching Longthwaite Youth Hostel I noticed a few walkers eyeing me oddly and then one couple asked if I were the one who owned a blue rucksack. They had met up with another couple at Honister and the other couple had found my rucksack, thought that I may have been in difficulty somewhere, so started to call my name, which they had found from my YHA card. On getting no reply they decided that the best thing to do was to take the rucksack to Honister Youth Hostel, but the warden knew nothing about me, as I wasn't booked in there. When I entered Longthwaite Youth Hostel I found that the warden there had already found out about my plight. However, on making further enquiries it ensued that the couple had insisted on taking the rucksack to Keswick police station. By this time it was too late to catch the last bus to Keswick. The warden rang the police for me and they said that they had nobody free at the time but would see if they could drop it off later in the evening. It was delivered, much to my relief, by a police van at 8.30 p.m.

The only positive point to the whole escapade was that the walk down to the hostel was much easier without anything to carry, although I would have been more than happy to forego this to avoid all the anxiety that I went through. News of this incident quickly spread through the grapevine to most of the other Coast to Coast walkers and I soon became a celebrity, with people pointing me out from afar!

Dinner in the hostel, which I had to have unwashed and unchanged, was soup, sausage casserole and scone in the company of over eighty schoolchildren. They were quite well behaved but the dining room was very cramped making serving of the food very difficult and the volume of noise in such confined conditions was bound to be excessive. Fortunately my dormitory was a small one and not the one containing any of the children, so there was at least the prospect of a reasonable night's sleep.

The earlier part of the evening brought torrential rain with heavy thunder but this gradually cleared up making a walk to the pub in Rosthwaite feasible. This valley has the dubious honour of having the highest rainfall in England at 150 inches a year. In the pub the Theakstons bitter was a bit off. I met up with Graham, Brian and Henry in there, drank with them and later walked back with them, arriving back at the hostel just before they locked up for the night.

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Day 3 - Tuesday 9th June - Longthwaite to Grasmere - 9.5 miles + 1 mile detour to High Raise

Accommodation - YHA, Thorney Howe - 14.55 with full meals and packed lunch

Had a rather hectic breakfast at 8 a.m. with all the children, and set off in fine but humid and hazy weather. There was a pleasant walk along the Stonethwaite valley, then a steady climb getting steeper up to Lining Crag with good views and waterfalls along the way. By 12 a.m. I had reached Greenup Edge, so decided to go off route to High Raise which gave some fine views of the western mountains. This time, when I left the rucksack, I left a big note on it saying "Gone to Summit - Returning Shortly" to avoid a repetition of yesterday's fiasco.

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Eel Crags from Longthwaite
Eel Crags from Longthwaite
Looking NW along Stonethwaite Beck
Stonethwaite Beck
Grasmere and Goody Bridge from Helm Crag
Grasmere from Helm Crag

After lunch back at Greenup Edge, I set off along the crags feeling rather weary. At first I thought that I might be dehydrated so I drank a litre of water from a mountain stream - one advantage of the Lake District is that there are plenty of streams and sometimes they have the bonus of a dead sheep in them for added protein! After the drink I felt worse so I was glad that I had plenty of time to amble along and stop for rests as and when I felt like it. The problem turned out to be just a bit of a stomach upset which passed away by the next day. The walk along the crags towards Grasmere gave some good views of Helvellyn, Fairfield etc. and then overlooked Grasmere lake. The last bit of the walk was accompanied by rumbles of thunder, but I reached the hostel in good time before the heavy downpour that followed.

The hostel was quite small and cosy compared to the previous one - there was also another, larger hostel closer to Grasmere. Although the evening meal was quite basic, consisting of soup, Cumberland sausage with roast potatoes and green beans, and apple crumble, it was cooked to perfection and far better than in most hostels. The previous day's thunderstorm had brought water flooding in through the hostel door and into the dormitory in which I was sleeping. The carpet was still soaking wet, so it was a nuisance trying to find a dry place when putting anything on the floor. It also meant getting wet feet when getting in and out of bed, and having to put up with a stagnant water smell all night from the carpet.

I walked into Grasmere village after dinner midst threatening rumblings of thunder, but there were only a few small showers. After walking down to Wordsworth's cottage and museum complex, I returned to the village and happened upon the pub where Graham, Brian and Henry and some others were having a drink. A Dutch chap who was doing the Coast to Coast in the opposite direction and who was in the same hostel as me (the others were in the big hostel), came in shortly afterwards and joined us, so I walked back to the hostel with him later.

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Day 4 - Wednesday 10th June - Grasmere to Patterdale via Helvellyn - 10 miles

Accommodation - YHA, Patterdale 15.25 with full meals and packed lunch

The weariness from the previous day's stomach upset had now gone and the blisters on my feet, after some doctoring, were starting to improve. The only problem with blisters is actually getting started again after each stop. After hobbling along for about half a mile or so the pain goes away and then they are hardly noticeable until the next stop. It pays to prick the ones which have puffed up otherwise they just spread outwards but, apart from that, they seem to stop hurting after about three days as the skin underneath ceases to be tender.

I set off at 9.30 a.m. with the weather rather overcast and spotting with rain, but with the cloud level above the mountain tops, which were reasonably clear. There was a steady climb, quite steep in places, up by Great Tongue to Grisedale Tarn. This was followed by a steep climb up Dollywagon Pike to follow the high level alternative route over Helvellyn, otherwise the main route runs steadily down the valley to Patterdale. There was a very cold wind at the top of Helvellyn and I put on my pullover and waterproofs to keep warm. After lunch near the summit the weather gradually started to improve and the wind dropped considerably. Helvellyn is very central to the Lake District and nearly every major peak can be seen from the summit as well as sections of the Pennines.

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Swirral Edge, Catstye Cam and Ullswater from Helvellyn
Swirral Edge & Catstye Cam
Striding Edge from Helvellyn
Striding Edge from Helvellyn
Glenridding, Ullswater and Place Fell from Birkhouse Moor
Ullswater and Place Fell

As I started my descent to Striding Edge, after spending some time around the summit, I saw a large group of people sporting pin stripe suits, ties, bowler hats and rolled up umbrellas coming the other way. It turns out that they were from Austin Reed and were involved in a charity Telethon. As the afternoon progressed the weather gradually improved ending in beautiful sunshine giving marvellous views down onto Glenridding and Ullswater as well as views of the route of the next day's walk up towards High Street. Further north it was just possible to make out the `golf ball' of the radar station on Great Dun Fell. I stopped several times to sit and admire the view as there was plenty of time to spare.

On the road through Patterdale towards the Youth Hostel I passed the hotel where Graham, Brian and Henry were having a drink on the lawn outside in the warm sunshine, so I stopped for a pint of very good Marston's with them before booking in to the hostel. The hostel is a very large one and had another big school party staying. However, because the dining room was large and had an extra extension to it, the school party were not any problem at all. Dinner was soup, chicken casserole and rice pudding.

It was a very fine evening, so I went for a stroll to the end of Ullswater and into Glenridding before calling back into the hotel for a pint. The others had said they would be going there but it ensued that they had gone to the other pub in Patterdale. I went back to the hostel and was just about asleep when I heard a lot of crashing about, which turned out to be Brian and Henry climbing in through the dormitory window having returned after the hostel door had been locked.

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